Round 1 of Ukuleles

My secretary greeted me this week with a big box – our first five ukuleles have arrived! Using a mini-grant and most of my music budget, I placed an order for 5 ukuleles to start our ukulele stash for my music room – and the kids are THRILLED. We pulled them out to take a peek and try them out and I didn’t think I was going to get them back!


I am looking forward to using the ukuleles for a big project in 5th grade studying chords and harmony (our QuaverMusic subscription has a devoted project to interactive lessons on the ukulele), but I am especially looking forward to putting these into every one of my children’s hands throughout their musical career with me.

As I do my research and exploration, I think ukuleles will fit into my Kodaly-inspired classroom so much more than I ever thought; I believe they will add an incredible depth to our music literacy together. As we start putting notes on the staff to sing, we can extend our lessons and make deeper connections by learning how to play the very same songs on ukulele. Once we learn how to read sol & mi on the staff, we can start piecing together lines & spaces and letter names and make the translation to ukulele. If sol is on the second line, G, then where is a G on my ukulele? How about mi? What if half of the class sang “Star Light, Star Bright” while the other played the sol & mi on their ukuleles? Better yet, we can learn the C chord and add chordal harmonies plus the pitches with the help of a handful of small stickers to mark frets. Suddenly, we’re reading ‘real music’ for singing AND instruments – as young as six years old. (And Kindergarten, it can be a whole new way to keep the steady beat, even if just using open strings – it might be slightly dissonant to strum all open, but I can picture their giant smiles now.)

Ukuleles aren’t just for chords and Hawaiian music – soprano ukuleles are tuned in a child’s voice range. Pitch-matching is so much easier for them on a ukulele than a guitar or other lower instrument, and the instruments FIT in their arms! We’re going to do a short guitar unit with my 5th graders, but I am already wincing thinking about how large the instruments will be on them and how painful those steel strings will be on their fingers. I’m committed to giving them some kind of instrumental skill that they can take with them into real life (unless you’re a music teacher or musicologist, who can honestly answer that they’ve pulled out their recorder since 5th grade?) and my 5th graders are excited to learn guitar, but I know ukulele will be a much better fit for my students.

Now, on to writing grants for more ukuleles… (and for kicking this nasty sinus virus – yuck!)


Strumming Along


I’ve long been a musician and a crafter, but I haven’t been able to combine these skills for quite some time! This lovely Cordoba ukulele was my Christmas gift from my husband – I’ve played guitar for years and I’ve recently discovered the wonderful ways ukuleles can be used in the elementary music classroom – the instrument is small for small hands, nylon strings don’t hurt nearly as badly as steel, a soprano uke is pitched at the same level as their treble voices, and ukuleles perfect for the classroom run around $50! I’m pursuing some grants to secure some for my classroom, but in the meantime, I felt that getting one in my hands would be a great way to get comfortable before the kids get theirs.

We traveled to my mother-in-law’s in Wichita for the holidays, and when we weren’t playing Resident Evil 4 with Evan’s cousin I often had my ukulele in my hand. I even tossed it in the car when we went to his dad and stepmom’s house! All that travel made me start to worry, though – I ought to get a case to keep it safe from nicks and dings!

A quick check at a local guitar store (the day after Christmas, naturally) and they proved to be fresh out of cases. Then I had the idea – why not sew my own?

Now, let’s pause for a moment – I’m sure anybody who reads this who has a sewing machine collecting dust just rolled their eyes at the seemingly-tedious and difficult idea. Not so, my friend! I found a fantastic pattern from Pinterest that did not let my amateur skills down!

My sewing skills are as follows:

  1. Pin fabric
  2. Turn on and use iron
  3. Turn on and thread sewing machine, including bobbin
  4. Back-stitch
  5. Change the stitch setting from straight to zig-zag
  6. Rip out stitches
  7. Not being obsessed with perfect seams and lines

As you can see from my skills, I need some pretty simple patterns that set me up for success. Ashley at Mommy by day, Crafter by night made this beautiful pattern tutorial that has you create your own pattern by tracing your ukulele onto a piece of paper and adding inches here and there to fit everything snugly.

Yes, you spotted my sewing companion: Lady Grantham from Downton Abbey!

This pattern took me 3 or 4 days while putting in approximately 4 or 5 hours total (allowing for errors, of course).

I spent around $20 at JoAnn’s on fabric and the zipper!

I did make some changes and errors:

  1. The tutorial calls for duck cloth to strengthen the case – I skipped this to make it easier to sew (thinner material with fusible fleece and cotton fabric only) and because I didn’t mind a softer case.
  2. I ironed my fusible fleece to my pattern pieces instead of quilting them – my machine is simpler and doesn’t have the quilting ability, but I don’t mind!
  3. I skipped the steps about the piping – keeping it simple for some of my first projects.
  4. I also messed up and did not leave enough long fabric for the sides of my ukulele case – I had to adjust and sew some scraps together and use extra fabric scraps I had lying around (the original plan was to make it all birds on the front and all mint-green patterned on the inside with the coral for the case handle)
Halfway done…

The seams aren’t perfect and my edges were rough, but I am so proud of the result – and my husband is, too! I wish you the best of luck on this project – I hope you will enjoy it as much as I!

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My finished project!
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Click here to visit Mommy by Day, Crafter by Night and her lovely ukulele tutorial!